As a child, Easter was a main event, mostly involving spring and eating a lot and having my grandparents in town for the weekend. My sister and I put on our new dresses and flowered hats; we wore white gloves to church. Before we piled into the van, my eyes would scan the hallway, seeking the plastic eggs I knew were filled with chocolate, though the egg hunt wasn’t until afternoon.
Jesus was a part of it, but I’d heard the story so many times; resurrection was hardly a surprise. Mostly, I think I was grateful the savior enabled such a holiday—where overnight a new stuffed bunny might show up on the kitchen table in a basket, along with chocolate eggs and turquoise candy-coated malted milk balls.
Perhaps as children, this is all we need; the assurance of newness, joy returning every holiday.
Easter dawned cloudy this year, and the wind felt cold walking from the van into church with my family. I didn’t have a new dress. I didn’t wear white gloves. Afterward, only one grandma came home to celebrate—the other sits in a nursing home barely aware of what’s around her, and my grandpa is years gone.
Kathleen Norris says in her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith that the Hebrew word for “salvation” means literally “to make wide” or “to make sufficient.” She tells the story of a friend on a destructive path who got out; he “recognized that the road he had taken was not wide enough to sustain his life; it was sufficient only as a way leading to death.”
I went to a small group this week where the theme was Christ as Victor. We talked about the meaning of the resurrection, and it was said that death was not a part of God’s plan, and I wondered. Death is a subject that has been on my mind this summer. I read Annie Dillard and was reminded how rampant death is in nature, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a bad thing. Our skin cells are dying every second to keep us new. Death in the earth makes fertile ground, so plants and trees can thrive. This itself seems to me a sort of rebirth.
Genesis does not read as a scientific account to me, so I’ve wondered what Eden might mean in light of what is known about our planet’s history, the billions of years of life and death and more life. In the story itself, the death promised to Adam and Eve is not a literal one. God says in the day they eat of the fruit of the tree, they shall surely die, but they don’t die. Not physically, for many years. What change might sin have wrought upon the world? What could be the meaning of death without sin?
Perhaps I am losing my more fundamentalist readers who believe Genesis is a literal account and I am ignoring God’s clearly written word. I would say to you only that I love the story of Eden. I think it is beautiful and true, but I think truth comes in different forms. We could have a long discussion about the genre of our oldest scriptures, about truth and myth, but that’s not what this post is about.